There are lots of people who unwrapped shiny new eReaders over this past Christmas weekend. This blog is largely written for those who are new to the world of ebooks and e-reading devices, so I try to help folks out with learning the basics.
Perhaps the best place to start might be with my post of eBook Terms for Newbies. That will help you get familiar with some commonly used terms that you might not have been aware of before. Making yourself comfortable with those terms will help you when you start trying to follow instructions for downloading ebooks and using your eReader.
Last year I wrote a post titled “You got an eBook Reader as a gift. Now what?” It gives you a solid set of guidelines to use when learning how your new eReader functions. I really recommend reading that if you’re using your first eReader. The information will help you avoid many of the common problems that people run into, and it should also generally help you learn how to work with your eReader.
My “Top 5 Reasons Why Your eBook Isn’t Opening” is a good place to look when you’re having trouble. It covers hardware issues, software issues, and DRM issues.
If you need help with Adobe Digital Editions, or would just like to learn more about it before you use it, check out these posts:
Adobe Digital Editions — An overview of authorizing and using the program.
How To Authorize Your eReader for Adobe Digital Editions — Step by step instructions.
ACSM Files — What they are and how to work with them. Hint: they are not ebooks!
How To Change the Authorized Adobe ID — Learn how to switch the Adobe ID that your computer is authorized with.
If you’re using a new iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, and you want to read ebooks with Adobe DRM (that were not purchased through Apple’s iBooks) I recommend Bluefire Reader. My Bluefire Reader post has really detailed step-by-step instructions for how to authorize it and how to transfer your ebooks to your device through iTunes.
Likewise, if you’ve got a new Android toy (smartphone or tablet) you can take a look at my post about Aldiko, the recommended app for ebook reading on Android.
If you’ve got pretty much anything other than a new Kindle, you can download some free ebooks here. That’s a great way to test out your eReader since if you make a mistake it won’t cost you anything.
Overall, here are my most basic recommendations for using a new eReader:
1. Learn which ebook formats your device is able to read.
2. Before buying any ebooks, make sure the website you’re using can support your eReader.
3. Take a moment to read your manual and learn the basic functionality of your eReader.
4. Always follow posted instructions! Don’t skip anything.
Holiday shopping has (ridiculously) already started here in early November. I’m pretty sure that a lot of eReaders will be given as gifts this year, what with the newly released models and price competition. With that in mind, I thought I’d compile a list of useful reviews about popular eReaders. I will try and do another list about tablet-style devices later — this one is just for the newest E-Ink eReaders. (Update: see Tablet Review Roundup)
Kobo eReader Touch Reviews
Engadget — “For those looking for a device strictly for reading, the new Kobo is a nice little option. It’s small enough to slip into a pocket, can do more with a PDF than the competition, and at $129, it’s $10 cheaper than both the Nook and Kindle WiFi. There’s also nothing in the way of social functionality on the device, but we didn’t really miss it. Ultimately, however, the eReader Touch Edition has one fatal flaw: it’s not as good as the Nook.”
TechCrunch — “Superficially similar to the new Nook, but the Kobo is perhaps even simpler, and the form factor is slightly more book-like. If you don’t need 3G or the other perks of the Kindle ecosystem, and just want a straightforward e-book reading device, this Kobo could be a good match.”
PCMag — “The Kobo eReader Touch Edition brings a nice touch interface and a small footprint to Kobo’s ebook reader line, but its performance and design don’t measure up to its best competitors.”
PCWorld — “It’s rare to find an inexpensive product that also introduces innovation into its category. And yet that’s exactly what Kobo Books’ Kobo eReader Touch Edition does. The company’s third-generation e-reader, this model is the smallest and lightest 6-inch E Ink e-reader currently available.”
ZDNet — “Kobo’s new touchscreen-enabled ebook reader may actually beat the new Nook as the best dedicated ebook reader.”
Wired — “$10 less than comparable Kindle and Nook, making it the cheapest, smallest and lightest e-reading in the pack. Nicely motivates by projecting both the fun and sport of reading. Faux-quilted plastic back sacrifices ergonomics. Touch screen is sometimes slow.”
Nook Touch Reviews
Engadget — “The new Nook is a bit of an enigma, in a sense, simultaneously adding more features while attempting to return to the simple reading experience missing from tablets like the iPad and Nook Color. It succeeds on both accounts. All of the new features enhance rather than detract from the goal of reading, and they’re there when you want them and mostly invisible when you don’t. The social functions are about reading and reading alone — if you’re looking for a place to play Words with Friends, look elsewhere.”
TechCrunch — “After a few days with the new Nook I was hooked. It is a pure reading experience condensed into a device the size of a paperback and with a super-crisp e-ink touchscreen. The Nook is, in short, the best e-reader from a major player I’ve used thus far and is well ahead of its competitors in terms of usability and form factor.”
PCMag — “Thanks to plenty of upgrades and a laser-sharp focus on the reading experience, the second-gen Barnes & Noble Nook Touch Reader is our new Editors’ Choice for ebook readers.”
PCWorld — “I can’t say that the Nook is the absolute best e-reader available today, but it comes close. Nook gets marked down for its terrible button design and inconsistent contrast; and yet, it wins favor for its interface and touch navigation. Those factors, coupled with its light weight and long battery life rating, make Nook a solid choice, as long as you plan to use the touchscreen and not the buttons to page through your books.”
ZDNet — “This is a stripped, bare basics version of the Nook that would be ideal for students and anyone else on a budget.”
Wired — “By now, most everyone in your circle of friends has played with a Kindle and an iPad. Fewer have picked up a Nook. But I’d urge you to give this dark horse a shot.”
Amazon Kindle Reviews
Engadget — “If you’ve ever played with a Kindle, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the fourth-generation is one solid device. The hardware is well made, the processing is snappy and the screen is extremely easy to read. It is, however, sorely lacking in the bells and whistles department, with a renewed, almost one-track focus on reading.”
TechCrunch — (Video) “The first device Jeff Bezos showed off at today’s Amazon event was the diminutive Kindle Touch, a $99 e-ink device that should be on everyone’s Christmas lists this year. The Touch has an 6-inch, IR-based touchscreen and includes all of the features found in the ne Kindle models including the new X-Ray feature that adds research and information to any book downloaded from the Kindle store.”
PCMag — “The new Amazon Kindle rings in at a bargain $79 price, establishes the new class standard for affordable ebook readers, and still features the best ebook store on the market.”
PCWorld — This is a very simple overview for the 3rd generation. I could not find one for the current 4th generation models.
CNet — I couldn’t find a review specific to the newest Kindle models. This link gives you a list of all related Kindle reviews on CNet.
Wired — “Amazon’s new Kindles bring an updated hardware design to its family of popular black and white e-readers. There are different configurations — touch and non-touch, Wi-Fi-only, and 3G cellular data-enabled — all being sold at different prices, and all of them cheaper than the $200 Kindle Fire tablet. They’re made for people who don’t want the tablet; those who just want to read comfortably in a way they’ve grown familiar with, thank you very much.”
Sony Reader WiFi Reviews
Engadget — “There’s a lot to like about this new guy. The WiFi Reader has a lot of compelling functionality, including dual-touch pinch to zoom, handwritten note taking, audio playback and built-in access to public library and Google Books content. At $149.99, it’s also quite reasonably priced for a Sony reader, down $30 from the Sony Reader Pocket Edition (which, it’s worth noting, failed to include WiFi).”
TechCrunch — “Will the T1 do the impossible and overthrow Amazon and BN’s hegemonic hold on the eReader market? In all honestly, probably not, but a functional and stylish alternative can help keep innovation alive and the big guys on their toes.”
PCMag — “Sony finally comes down to earth with the Reader Wi-Fi, a $150 ebook reader that compares well with the B&N Nook Touch and upcoming Amazon Kindle Touch.”
PCWorld — “Price and design are the two biggest factors driving the e-reader market; and in the past, Sony severely dragged its feet on the former. But today the company has rectified the situation with the introduction of the newest Sony Reader Wi-Fi PRS-T1.”
ZDNet — “While there’s no compelling reason to buy it over the Kindle Touch, the Sony Reader Wi-Fi is a very solid e-reader.”
Wired — Does not currently seem to have a review of the WiFi T1 model.
Amazon has rocked the eReader and tablet world today by announcing Kindle Fire and releasing some new Kindle eReader models at extremely low prices.
You can check out Amazon’s charts that compare the different devices for yourself (look at ‘Compare Kindles’ on a page like this), but I want to go over what I consider the main differences between them.
The basic Kindle is starting at $79 (with special offers) or $109 without special offers. $79 is a pretty darn low price for an electronic device, but more importantly, it’s way lower than most other eReaders. The new Sony Reader WiFi, for example, is available for pre-order right now for $149. Even if you don’t want the ‘special offers’ screensaver ads, you only have to go up to $109.
It’s also important to note that this device does not have a touch screen. Navigation is done with the button at the bottom-center.
Kindle Touch / 3G
This is similar to the basic Kindle, but with a touch screen. It is either $99 with special offers, or $139 without special offers. You could compare this one to the Nook Touch. It also has audio capabilities.
The next step up is the Kindle Touch 3G at $149 with special offers or $189 without. These models will let you connect to 3G networks, like you do with your cell phone, to get internet access even when you can’t get on WiFi.
All of the Kindle models work with Amazon’s cloud system, which means that you don’t have to download ebooks to your computer, and you can easily use your digital content on multiple devices that you own.
This is the biggest news. There has been speculation about a Kindle tablet for a long time. Amazon has announced a tablet-like Kindle device, and it’s available for pre-order for only $199.
One of the things that has been wondered for so long was whether Amazon would be able to release a device that would be a competitor for the Apple iPad. This cnet article says they have, but I don’t know if I agree. Since this is a smaller device at 7″ and lacks many of the features of the iPad, in my opinion it’s more comparable to the Nook Color. Both of those devices are more like big brothers to eReaders. They have the color touch screens and run on Android, which means you can watch videos and play games, so in the end they are eReaders with some additional fancy features.
On the other hand, that cnet article points out something very important: if you’re an average user who’s using these devices for typical stuff like reading, video streaming, and basic internet access, you don’t need an expensive iPad. And on top of that, if you’re going to be traveling with the device it feels a lot better to tote around a $199 tablet rather than one that cost you $500+.
I think it will come down to what you actually need to use the device for. If you will actually use additional features that the iPad has (like Bluetooth, video conferencing, or HD video recording) you might be willing to spend the money for those. But if you’re the average user, something like the Kindle Fire might be perfect.
I’m going to be really interested to find out how open the Android OS will be on this device. If you can install Aldiko Book Reader on it, that will mean that you won’t be tied down to the Kindle store anymore, and you’ll be able to get ebooks from other websites. I suspect that it won’t be possible to install other ebook apps in the beginning, but people will find a hack-around for it.
The other big question is how this is going to affect the market for eReaders as a whole. These new Kindles are being sold at such a low price that other companies might not be able to compete at all. Or, it might force companies to find ways to use cheaper materials to build these devices. It will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to this.
PCMag’s 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards for Tablets and eBook Readers was posted last month, but I just now ran across it. Some of their results are what I would have expected, but some of the data was pretty surprising to me.
It’s no surprise that the Apple iPad was chosen as the favorite. What did shock me was that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer was also chosen as a top pick. I’ve never even seen one of these sold in a store. I knew that these devices existed but I didn’t think that anybody actually used them, because as someone who provides tech support for this category of devices, nobody has ever asked me a question about them. It seems like it could be a cool device to own because of its flexibility … maybe it’s just being overshadowed by the larger companies?
A quote from the article: “If you needed any evidence that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are the leaders in ebook readers, look no further than our Readers’ Choice scores. They far outscore the other ebook reader manufacturers: Sony and Pandigital, the only others we got enough responses to include.” (emphasis mine)
Apparently they let people fill in their own answers, and almost everyone wrote in Amazon Kindle or B&N Nook. The only other devices that people mentioned often enough for PCMag to get enough data for were the Sony Reader and Pandigital Novel. I’m not doubting their data, but I find this hard to believe. There are about a zillion different eReader devices available and some are quite popular, like the Kobo eReader or BeBook. It seems quite odd to me that at least the Kobo didn’t get enough mentions to be included. It’s not surprising that the Kindle and Nook were the most popular, for the same reason mentioned in the article: they are tied to previously established bookstores. Most people will buy eReaders from those companies because they are already shopping at those stores.
Check out the article‘s second and third pages for charts.
What is your choice for best tablet or eReader? Anything besides the iPad, Kindle, or Nook?
Earlier this week Google announced their “own” eReader device. They have commandeered the iriver Story HD, which has already been around for a while, and added some built-in Google Books functionality to it, and are now going to be selling it at Target for $139.99.
Before this, you could use ebooks from Google on your computer or many devices (iOS, Android, etc) by downloading the ebook and then sending it to the device. This is different because you can use the iriver Story to wirelessly download ebooks directly to the device.
According to the Google blog post, this is just the beginning. They’d like more eReader developers to work in WiFi access to Google Books on their devices as well.
A while back I tested the Google eBooks system and wrote a post with details about it. I liked how it worked. I read a book or two in the Google Books app on my iPhone and was pleased with it. It would be useful to be able to download ebooks directly to an E-Ink eReader if you were already doing most of your e-reading on that type of device.
I think it would be great if eReader manufacturers could add this into already-existing devices, perhaps in firmware updates. That way people could choose to make use of their current downloading system as well as Google Books. I doubt they will do that right away since that would reduce any need for buying this iriver device, but perhaps it will happen a little later on.
I made a new Squidoo Lens: Tablet Comparisons. This one is similar to the eBook Reader Comparisons lens, but obviously about tablets instead. It lists tech specs on each tablet so that you can reference them all in one place, hopefully making it useful as a shopping guide.
Right now the tablets covered are: iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola Xoom, Blackberry Playbook, Toshiba Tablet, and BeBook Live.
I plan to keep it updated as new tablets come out and as new models are released for the current available tablets. If you know of a new tablet that should be included, feel free to leave a comment to suggest one (either here or on the lens itself). Sometime soon I’ll be updating the eBook Reader Comparisons lens to include the new eReaders that I wrote about in my last post.